Monday, 19 September 2016

As I've said previously, it is a truism that a house doesn't make a home. Equally, ILEs (Innovative Learning Environments) are much more than the bricks and mortar, fancy furniture, 1x1 devices and ultra fast broadband connection.
Pt England School was built in 1953 and of the original classrooms 11 remain. Additional to these rooms we have 4 relocatable (temporary) classrooms with the remaining 12 teaching and learning spaces being specifically constructed as ILEs. The 4 relocatable rooms are to be replaced by mid 2017 by a 4 space ILE. That means that by July 2017 well over half our staff and students will be located in a purpose built ILE. 
In the month since my last post I have conducted an informal, anonymous, online survey of the teachers in the specifically ILE classrooms and what follows is a brief summary of that survey.

  • 66% of them have taught for 2 or more years in an ILE
  • 22% 1yrs experience & 12% 6 months
  • 66% enjoy and 33% mostly enjoy teaching in an ILE

  • student centred focus
  • village raising a child, using teacher strengths
  • other teachers to always communicate and collaborate with
  • ability to provide for differing learning styles
  • flexibility within teaching practice
  • beginning teachers learn from those around them
  • varied spaces for learning and class activities.

  • more conscious of managing noise level
  • when there is a reliever, it effects whole ILE not just the one class
  • can't do my "own thing" when I want to, no real room for spontaneity
  • have to be much more collaborative
  • disruptive kids can easily disrupt the entire space
  • students have to work hard not to get distracted by other things going on around them

  • all teachers need to be on board and able to work together
  • enjoyed it more than I thought I would
  • knowing others are close by makes you think much more about how you speak to the children/how you are coming across
  • some personal ideas can be limited because there are other teachers to be collabrative with
  • 3 classroom space works better (more easily) than a two space

     Pedagogical changes:
  • give students more choice of where they learn
  • Heaps! Mainly around the village effect - how to create a collaborative approach with teaching and learning (meeting every morning as a village, how to teach small groups in a large space, using the spaces properly for teaching and learning, etc)
  • more openly reflective. I would always think in my head, but having to record it for others has been useful.
  • reflecting/ inquiring into teaching practice as a team
  • more collaboration

      Student enjoyment of ILE:
  • LOVE having almost all their friends in the same space
  • like having the options to work in different places with different people
  • more room, more freedom, more options
  • like having more teachers
  • there are other teachers available during the times when their teacher is working with a small group
  • Very much. They become a very tight knit community
  • an entire grade level to be together provides a very social atmosphere
  • more engaged and take ownership of their work as there is more flexibility around how they choose to accomplish their tasks
  • don't like not having their own space

      Student learning benefits:
  • it allows for better grouping opportunities which in turn helps achievement
  • students seemed more engaged
  • hard to quantify, especially when you consider all of the other innovation, inquiry etc. that has been put into our teaching and learning
  • students enjoy taking charge of their own learning and having some choice

      Could a single cell be an ILE?:
  • Group teaching, use of instructional videos, GAFE, Learn/Create/Share can be
  • Reflecting/ inquiring into teaching as a team in-time is only really possible in an ILE when you share the experience/ challenges.
  • more ILE on my own. More flexibility to respond to individual student needs and can ramp up the creativity 
  • ongoing teacher collaboration is the biggest advantage to being in an ILE. Going back to a tradition "single cell" classroom would be very difficult if it were with a group of teachers who did not openly collaborate on a daily basis.
  • giving students choice and flexibility with completing tasks

My reflection so far on these responses is that there are some space advantages in a purpose built ILE that help facilitate learning. ILEs help meet various learning styles through their greater flexibility. In a predominately Maori/Polynesian school, as ours is, the "village" aspect sits well with its ebb and flow of people, programmes and resources and developed sense of community.  However to suggest that the original 1953 rooms and the relocatable rooms are not innovative would be far from the truth and would do a disservice to the educators in those spaces. All of those rooms have access to wireless ultra fast broadband, have at least 6 iMacs each, all students have their own device (either iPad or Chromebook) and the teachers are actively inquiring into their practice. In fact, some of the teachers surveyed felt they could be more innovative on their own with more room to be spontaneous. 

My next challenge is to consider a meaningful way I can survey the students involved in ILEs. It would need to be from a "what do I enjoy, what don't I like" angle and not "compare and contrast". The old ways are "so last year" that few of them would be able to remember what it was like with any great clarity. 
In the meantime, if you've taken the time to read this post I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections.